Saab are in a strange position when it comes to public perception.
The thing that’s often worked against Saab in the global space in the last 10 years – relative anonymity – is actually working for Saab in many countries at the moment. Sure, sales are down all around the world this year, and in a big way, but I think sales might be down by even more if Saab were getting the caning worldwide that they’re getting from the Swedish press right now.
The Swedish press, as a group, must have been hit by a Saab when they were small. They’ve been cutthroat in their criticism of Saab’s situation right from the get-go. I saw an article the other day where IF Metall chief, Paul Akerlund, criticised the press for printing beat-up reports and in the very same article, the reporter tried to tie US mortgage-meathead Daniel Sadek to the Koenigsegg bid (Mark Bishop worked with/for Sadek several years ago). There’s no evidence whatsoever to suggest this, it’s just relationship based speculation in the wildest extreme. But hey, if you throw enough mud then some of it will stick.
On the other hand, the rest of the world’s motoring press still has a soft spot for Saab, partly due to cars like the 900 and the 9000 Aero, and partly because they know that GM ownership of Saab has been disastrous and identity-sapping for the more distinctive Swedish brand.
Fortunately for Saab, they deal in the global space. It’d be nice to have a little more local support, but I guess Saab are just going to have to have some success before they can convince the local press that they were wrong – and they are wrong!
Saab are taking the initiative with the 2010 Saab 9-5 and releasing information about the car later this week (Thursday, to be precise). I think that’s a good aggressive move, ensuring that the car won’t get lost amongst the Germans at the IAA in Frankfurt mid-September.
That’s one good move, but I hope there’s a few more to come.
First up, I’d love to see the Koenigsegg Group quit the games they’re playing with the Swedish government. Whether we like it or not, Fred, Maud and Jo-jo have the public on their side and while that’s the case, you are not going to get a single öre out of them. You’d be better served by getting Augie Fabela to throw in some pocket change, rolling up your collective sleeves and concentrating on the EIB loan guarantees.
The other good move would be to come out on the front foot and market the living daylights out of your new vehicles. Saab’s been crying out for an expanded range for so long now and they will have two fantastic new cars for people to drive and buy.
I’d love to see this guy – who, whether he likes it or not, is the new public face of Saab – come out and speak with confidence about the deal, the future, and the cars that will either enhance or embarass his family name in the future.
Right now, the energy that’s going into “who’s paying for what” could be going into telling prospective Saab owners about how good the 9-3x and new 9-5 are. Saab are going to need these customers to provide the essential cashflow they require to keep the wolves from the door now that they’re no longer under the protection of the Swedish courts. They’re not going to need these customers in 12 months from now – they’ll need many of them in the next 12 weeks.
Saab were the minnow in the GM family and they were treated as such. I don’t know how it makes you feel and I don’t know how it makes the Koenigsegg people feel, but the fact that the company who was one of the first to master engine management (APC), practically the first to mass produce a turbocharged vehicle range, was one of the first to use 4 valves per cylinder in mass production……. when a company with a history like this has to wait for something like direct injection to trickle down from the Pontiac-freaking-Solstice, it bursts my boiler!
I’m sick of Saab being the one that gets the crumbs from the table and what’s more, I’m sick of Saab having to accept it. I’m sick of seeing tossers in BMWs and now Audis (sorry Eggs) getting the adulation of not only the motoring press, but the great unwashed as well. I don’t want them all fawning over Saab, but I do want Saab to build a product that stands on it’s own two (four?) feet – one that demands respect.
This is a grand opportunity to set sail for a new horizon. Saab could have their destiny in their own hands again. What it will take, initially, is a hell of a lot of focus from the people that can make it happen, great new products, and a positive message about Saab being Swedish again, and a return to innovation.
It really is possible. I can feel it in my bones.
All it needs is the right people to make it happen.